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Oil tycoon, Abdulwasiu Sowami takes giant leaps

Billionaire oil mogul, Abdulwasiu Olatunde Sowami, is hitting right the bull’s eyes. The self-effacing businessman has completed the head-to-toe makeover of Forte Oil Plc, his recently acquired energy company. On Tuesday, Forte Oil announced that it has changed its name to Ardova Plc through a disclosure on the Nigerian Stock Exchange signed by the company’ secretary, Oladehinde Nelson-Cole. The initial proposal to change the oil giant’s name came few months after the new owner—Ignite Investments and Commodities Limited led by Sowami, who also doubles as the Chief Executive of Prudent Energy Services Limited, had agreed to retain Forte Oil as the brand name, probably because the company, which operates mostly in the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry, has over the years mutated from one name to the other. It was formerly called African Petroleum before it embarked on a rebranding and restructuring programme which led to a name change to Forte Oil Plc in December 2010 after billionaire businessman, Femi Otedola acquired the energy firm.

In 2018, Otedola, then chairman of Forte Oil Plc, on his verified Instagram page, announced the completion of his divestment plans and the sale of his 75 per cent direct and indirect shareholdings in the oil company to Sowami’s Ignite Investments and Commodities Limited.

Otedola’s 75 per cent equity stake was sold to the new owners in a transaction reportedly worth N65 billion. The billionaire divested his entire 982,971,950 ordinary shares of 50 kobo each to the new owners, Ignite Investments and Commodities Limited, at N66.01 per unit, amounting to N64.9 billion. His decision to sell the shares came amidst speculations of his intention to invest in petrochemicals and refining. Rather, his proceeds from the deal was said to have been invested into a power generation company, Geregu Power Plc.

There is no gainsaying that Sowami and his team have brought a new lease of life to Forte Oil now Ardova Plc. A look into the company’s financials since Sowami took over revealed that the company’s interim financial statements for the period that ended September 30, 2019, shows that it recorded a massive growth in all areas. The company generated N123.54 billion in revenue as at the end of the nine-month period of 2019 compared to N94.81 billion in revenue as at September 2018 which represented a 30.3 per cent increase. Its profit before tax stood at N6.53 billion up from N645.88 million recorded as at the end of the third quarter of September 2018, representing an increase of 912 per cent. The oil firm also recorded a profit of N5.25 billion for the nine-month period of 2019, compared to N348.73 million recorded at the end of the nine months period for 2018 which represents a whopping 1408 per cent increase in profit after tax.

In the wake of Otedola’s exit, Spotlight has observed how some industry watchers have expressed concerns on the health of the firm as they insinuated the Epe-born billionaire might have left with the wand. This was so because two months into the acquisition, there was a steady drop in the fortunes of the energy firm. However, Sowami, though said to have spent over 20 years in the oil and gas industry and highly revered among his peers because of his intelligence coupled with his keen ability to take calculated risk which puts him ahead of his competitors, not many believe the businessman was really up for the game.

But in spite of those initial challenges, the Ogun State-born oilman kept his nose to the grindstone. He was said to have put all his skills into play to weather the oil industry storm and focus on the next phase of Ardova’s growth on increasing volumes, diversifying business operations, widening distribution networks and extracting potential synergies with partners.

Sowami —in his late 40s— is not given to limelight. Over the years, he had intentionally avoided the publicity of his personal brand and managed to stay off the public eye until recently.